Linden Labs announces Second Life Reboot — All of Second Life PANICS!

slforum

The official word came this week from Linden Labs CEO:

“Linden Lab is working on a next generation virtual world that will be in the spirit of Second Life, an open world where users have incredible power to create anything they can imagine and content creators are king. This is a significant focus for Linden Lab, and we are actively hiring to help with this ambitious effort. We believe that there is a massive opportunity ahead to carry on the spirit of Second Life while leveraging the significant technological advancements that have occurred since its creation, as well as our unparalleled experience as the provider of the most successful user-created virtual world ever.

“The next generation virtual world will go far beyond what is possible with Second Life, and we don’t want to constrain our development by setting backward compatibility with Second Life as an absolute requirement from the start. That doesn’t mean you necessarily won’t be able to bring parts of your Second Life over, just that our priority in building the next generation platform is to create an incredible experience and enable stunningly high-quality creativity, rather than ensuring that everything could work seamlessly with everything created over Second Life’s 11 year history.” (source)

This has of course sent the Second Life community into a major panic attack. “All my hard work for naught?”  For your reading enjoyment, there is this thread over at SL Universe.

This has nothing to do with High Fidelity, the alpha product being created by SL original mastermind Philip Rosedale, which also hopes to be the next gen of virtual worlds.

As someone who has been involved with virtual worlds now for 11 years, I kind of know my way around. Some observations from the big picture:

1. Not one of the 19 or so virtual worlds are showing any growth these days. They have all flatlined. Some, including SL are still profitable due to continued dues paid by current membership. Linden Labs cannot sustain itself with an old product that is not growing in usage or membership.

2. If current SL were to close tomorrow, OSGrid would be there to pick up the slack. If Linden Labs builds a new world and everyone hates it, OSGrid would be there to pick up the slack.  There are no plans for this though.  According to an interview with Linden Lab spokesman Peter Gray:  “It is thanks to the Second Life community that our virtual world today is without question the best there is, and after 11 years we certainly have no intention of abandoning our users nor the virtual world they continually fill with their astounding creativity. […] we think that much of the work we do for the next generation project will also be beneficial for Second Life.”

3. There are many design flaws in the initial concept that have created many problems. There.com and Second Life came out about the same time with two different approaches with the same social virtual world concept in mind. The fact that there is a lot you can do in There.com that you can’t in Second Life and vice versa — even today 11 years later — is proof that it is necessary to start over at some point. Reverse many of the mistakes in the initial concept, add new features you never could in the past. Simplify the whole convoluted mess of prims vs. sculpties vs. mesh. Above all make the avatars pretty.

4. If you want to know why all virtual worlds have either flatlined or collapsed, it is not because virtual worlds is a flawed concept for a program, it is because MMORPGs are doing it a lot better. MMORPGs are now doing everything that 3D Virtual worlds can do, except user created content. An MMORPG with user created content is likely going to be a much better and more interesting environment, than anything SL can currently offer. No one has done it before, but all the pieces exist to do it, and do it right.  Not sure if this is what Linden Lab is working on, but I believe this is what they should be aiming for.

Personally, I am kind of tired of the current state of Second Life. I’m looking forward to something new.  I hope they take the promise that was Linden Realms and run with it.

6 thoughts on “Linden Labs announces Second Life Reboot — All of Second Life PANICS!

  1. Paul June 23, 2014 / 6:56 pm

    Over the years, I have seen many virtual meeting places disappear. Either they became obsolete or were not generating profit enough. I entered Second Life only a few times, some years ago, and later I created a new profile, but I really did notfind it interesting enough to spend much time there. The graphics are still too simple… I imagine some kind of virtual realiity where things would look like a sci-fi movie, but much more realistic than these things we see now.

  2. Trix Easterwood June 24, 2014 / 4:26 am

    Very interesting post. This news is certain to shake up the world that is Second Life, if only, because it shows a lack of confidence in the world. The fact that Linden has devoted the majority of their resources to creating this new world is telling

  3. Elizabeth Gallagher June 27, 2014 / 10:21 am

    The sky IS falling!!! (Again) I am bored with SL after ten years.. it DOES need an objective for people who don’t want to just shop and pretend to drink cocktails or pretend to dine out etc. Unless you want to be a content creator or use SL for creative expression there really isn’t much to do BUT shop and as the land fees are so out of touch with reality there are less and less people who can afford to be creative and build or run events. It used to be a wonderful place full of contests and quizzes and social gatherings playing card games or building contests. Its nothing but tumble weeds and sex clubs these days it seems.

  4. Elizabeth Gallagher June 27, 2014 / 10:24 am

    Also, There.com I love but I am on a MAC OS now so I can’t play it. There.com has an amazing physics engine which allows for fantastic car racing or flying all around the virtual globe in a hover boat! The avatars are lame I guess, very cartoony and little to no customisation but I think that keeps it fun and keeps the creepy sex events out. I always said if SL had There.coms physics engine it could be amazing.

  5. Gwyneth Llewelyn June 29, 2014 / 10:47 pm

    Of course MMOGs can do it ‘much better’: they have full control over what can be done and what cannot be done🙂

    A typical example: imagine a huge, sprawling city. If it’s done on a virtual world with user-generated content, you need to add all those buildings, reaching out towards the horizon, so that it looks realistic. Tons and tons of meshes. But if you’re doing your own MMOG and know exactly which areas will be visited and which will not, you can just do a hyper-detailed background JPEG for all those buildings — players will never ‘reach the horizon’. In fact, this is exactly the same approach used by CGI in the movie industry: they don’t do meshes for everything, when a scene just has a background that is way easier to do in Photoshop than in Maya🙂

    This is a gross over-simplification. In fact, when you have full control over what kind of content you will have — and know everything in advance — it’s way, way easier to do everything better-looking, and, most importantly, much faster.

    Virtual worlds with user-generated content have no such luxury. Anyone — amateur or professional — can drop content (professionally done or not) inside it. The rendering engine has to deal with all poor content, and still users expect the same kind of performance than with professionally-modelled content. It’s a daunting task!

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